On Sunday, all copies of the print edition of the newspaper included an ad — one made to look like an actual news article but with the words “Paid Advertisement” in small print — that made the claim. The “article” bore a featured image of President Donald Trump with Pope Francis I, with people in traditional Islamic garb, as well as burning fires in the background. The “headline” read, “Dear Citizens of Nashville…”
This morning, the Nashville @Tennessean — the largest newspaper in the state — published a full-page ad from a far-right client warning “Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, Tennessee.” It’s accompanied by photos of Donald Trump and Pope Francis. pic.twitter.com/9vvUbteSIh
— Alex Martin Smith (@asmiff) June 21, 2020
“We are under conviction to not only tell you but to provide evidence that on July 18, 2020, Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, Tennessee,” read the ad, which can be read in its entirety via The New York Times.
The rest of the article consists mostly of the writer’s interpretation of Biblical prophecy that supposedly points to the weapon and the date of its detonation.
Disguising advertising as a legitimate news story is a tactic as old as advertising itself, and indeed, goes on to this day in both printed and online news media. In most cases, newspaper editorial teams will make at least some attempt to vet such advertising to, at the very least, make sure it doesn’t violate the outlet’s standards against, for example, hate speech.
At The Tennessean, those processes seemed to have fallen apart, said a spokesperson for the newspaper in an op-ed.
“This advertisement should not have been published within The Tennessean and we are sincerely sorry that this mistake took place. We are extremely apologetic to the community that the advertisement was able to get through and we are reviewing internally why and how this occurred and we will be taking actions immediately to correct,” said Ryan Kedzierski, vice president of sales for Middle Tennessee.
The publication has promised not only to investigate how the ad got through its vetting process but to pull the ad from all future print editions. Further, it promised to divert the advertising dollars it earned from the full-page ad and donate it to the American Muslim Advisory Council.
Jeff Pippenger — who identified himself as the speaker of the Ministry of Future for America, the organization that paid for the ad — said that he is due a full refund of his money that he spent on it. Further, he said he stands by its content and by the website that it links to.